Kermit the Frog (n.) The name of the bright green frog that is one of the central characters of the Muppets.
Kermit (v.) The reaction of a computer user to particularly distressing system issue. This reaction is accompanied by a loud scream and an uncontrollable flapping of the arms.
The other day I was packing up my stuff to leave the office when the phone rang. Phone calls toward the end of the day are not usually good. More often than not, an early evening phone call means a user with a tight deadline has discovered trouble. No worries, though. This is what we do.
For all you newbies in tech support, here’s a tip. You can always infer the seriousness of the problem by the speed of the user’s speech. For example, if the user describes the problem in a rapid manner, but stays under control, the problem is significant and important. However, if the user is speaking so fast that they skip words and cannot complete a single thought, the problem is destroying the user’s world and they are experiencing sheer panic.
Tonight’s user was nearing full-blown Kermit the Frog mode, and I completely understood why.
In the computer world, few things compare with the frustration of being unable to access your backups. After all, the backup is your security blanket. You see the little icon chugging away as you do your work, protecting you from trouble. No matter what happens, no matter how bad it get, you can always go back in time and start over.
Then it happens, the computers turn on you. Your files disappear. But you don’t worry because you were smart enough to have a Plan B.
And then things get worse…
Tonight, this user’s backups were unreadable. Corrupted. Destroyed. Well, not really, but that was the starting point for the call. Step 1 — Assure the user that help is here and not to panic. It’s not the end of the world. (Well, it might be — but we don’t know that yet. So relax.)
After connecting to the user’s system, I discover that the problem occurs on an external hard drive. More importantly, the files appear in the directory window. The files just don’t open. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. The files are likely encrypted, but is the encryption malicious? Check the directory for ransom instructions… nothing there. That’s good. But what is encrypting the files?
I browse the drive and notice the file “AccessEncryptedFiles.exe” in the root directory. No, it couldn’t be that simple. I check the help document in the same folder and, yes, it appears that it could be that simple. After opening the executable, we are prompted for a password. Not surprisingly, this password is not readily available. After a brief period of listening to background fussing, the user reappears with the correct credentials.
Disaster averted. The world is saved. And more importantly, I get to be the hero.
Teknique — Recently, we’ve seen an increase in the use of fiber. Fiber connections provide a huge degree of flexibility when addressing physical constraints in large offices and the data center. Fiber cabling is more varied than copper with different grades and connector types. I’ve put together a reference guide to help keep things straight. I would never ask Amy to soil the pages of the Spirit with anything so utterly dry, so look for it on my blog at blog.cmaaugusta.com. ;-)